21 Januari 2010

KF-X and AH-X Plan to Start in 2011

21 Januari 2010

Korea's AH-X (photo : KDN)

Fighter, Helicopter Plan to Start in 2011

Plans to locally develop a fighter aircraft and an attack helicopter will start next year.

The plan is part of comprehensive projects to develop the nation’s aerospace industry over the next decade, the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday.

It was approved by an ad hoc committee of the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy.

To develop the military aircraft industry, the government will begin exploratory development of the KF-X fighter and the Korea Attack Helicopter (KAH) next year.

The defense ministry plans to submit an outline of costs for the project to the National Assembly later this year.

Both programs have been stalled for several years due to questions about their economic and technical feasibility.

Korea's KF-X (photo : StrategyCenter)

The government will develop an aircraft on par with the F-16 Block 50 in cooperation with foreign defense firms, according to officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The KF-X will be armed with up-to-date radar and avionics systems, they said.

DAPA spokesman Kim Young-san said preliminary development for the KF-X will be conducted between 2011 and 2012 with an investment of 4.4 billion won, and full-scale workwill continue until 2021 at a cost of 5 trillion won.

Korea will foot 60 percent of KF-X development costs and will rely on foreign firms to cover the remainder, Kim said.

Among potential foreign bidders for the KF-X effort are Boeing and Eurofighter. Boeing is offering to transfer F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft technology to help build the KF-X, while Eurofighter wants Korea to join its Eurofighter Typhoon program.

The KF-X had originally aimed to produce and market about 120 aircraft stealthier than Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon but not as covert as Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II.

Facing technical and budgetary difficulties, the required operational capability for the KF-X has been lowered to that similar to the F-16.

Korea's roadmap for indigenous aircraft (image : invest korea)

The KAH will be a 5 ton light attack helicopter with a seating capacity of six to eight crew members, the spokesman said. Exploratory development will start next year with an estimated budget of 23.2 billion won, he said.

Full-scale development will continue over the next six years with investment of 600 billion won.

Either Korean Air or Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will develop the KAH with technical assistance from a foreign helicopter maker, the spokesman said.

The selection of a main Korean developer will be made in August.

Sources said Korean Air, a national flag carrier, has the upper hand in the competition, especially since KAI unsuccessfully pushed to develop a medium-heavy attack helicopter based on its Korea Utility Helicopter (KUH), the Surion.

Potential foreign partners for the KAH include AgustaWestland, the U.K.-Italy helicopter maker; Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European aerospace group EADS; Sikorsky Aircraft; and Boeing.

DAPA plans to purchase foreign heavy attack helicopter under the AH-X program separate from the KAH.

The AH-X effort calls for buying 36 foreign heavy attack helicopters while the KAH program will build about 270 homegrown aircraft.

Both the AH-X and KAH programs are aimed at replacing the Korean Army's aging 500MD TOWs and AH-1Ss. About half of the 500MD TOWs will reach their lifespan of 30 years by 2013, while the AH-1S helicopters have been in operation for more than 16 years.

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